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This week in Microsoft

Steve Ballmer touts a big year ahead for Microsoft--and makes it clear he doesn't throw chairs.

This week, Steve Ballmer touted a big year ahead for Microsoft--and made it clear he doesn't throw chairs.

Speaking at Gartner's Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Fla., Microsoft's CEO responded to well-publicized testimony by a former employee that Ballmer had hurled furniture and vowed to "kill Google" when informed of the employee's plans to leave Microsoft for rival Google.

But Ballmer used the occasion to address far more than his alleged furniture-tossing habits. He said his company is "at the beginning of 12 months of the greatest innovation pipeline we have ever had. Vista, Office, Windows Mobile, (Internet Explorer) IE 7...I can point to a lot of things. We are in the middle of the best pipeline we have ever had as a company."

Microsoft on Monday launched an update to a community-based preview release of Windows Vista, which includes a number of new features, such as efforts to improve the Web browser and make the operating system more resilient.

Vista is the first major update to the client version of Windows since 2001. The final version of Vista, which has also been known by its Longhorn code name, is due out in the second half of next year, Microsoft has said. A server version of the operating system is expected in 2007.

Amid the rosy product forecast, Microsoft also had some troubles this week. The company on Wednesday published its second advisory in as many weeks for users to deal with trouble arising from October's patch release.

One recently released patch can lock Windows users out of their PCs, prevent the Windows Firewall from starting, block certain applications from running or installing, and empty the network connections folder, among other things.

The other patching issue deals with the fixes in security bulletin MS05-050. The problem occurs when Windows 2000 users with DirectX 8.0 or 9.0 have applied the patch for DirectX 7.0. The computer will still be vulnerable to the flaw, but the user won't be notified that the system has not updated, Microsoft said.

The problems may result in increased apprehension among users when notified to apply Windows patches, noted Vijay Adusumilli, a senior product manager at security software vendor St. Bernard Software. "Microsoft's patch-quality reputation just started to improve, but I think this is going to dent that a bit," Adusumilli said. Meanwhile, Microsoft has pulled back from a plan to exclude rival media players from portable music devices using its software.

Details of the plan--and the reversal--were contained in a quarterly status report that Microsoft and the Department of Justice filed on Thursday with the federal judge who oversees the company's landmark antitrust settlement.

Microsoft has been trying to find ways to make portable music players running its software to compete better in a market dominated by Apple Computer's iPod and its companion iTunes software. Under the program Microsoft had proposed, device makers that included a CD containing Windows Media Player would have had to agree not to include any other software, including rival media players.